Black History Month: A look at the first black baseball player for the MLB, Moses Fleetwood Walker

Moses was credited as the first black man to play in the Major League Baseball League (MLB). Before that, he had played in several semi-professional leagues as part of the Negro Baseball Associations.

Moses Fleetwood Walker, was an American professional catcher from Ohio. He was born on October 7, 1856, and died on May 11, 1929 at 67, of lobar pneumonia.

Moses was credited as the first black man to play in the Major League Baseball League (MLB). Before that, he had played in several semi-professional leagues, part of the Negro Baseball Associations.

Walker’s first appearance as a major league ballplayer was an away game against the Louisville Eclipse on May 1, 1884; he went hitless in three at-bats and committed four errors in a 5–1 loss. Throughout the 1884 season, Walker regularly caught for ace pitcher Tony Mullane. Mullane, who described the rookie ball player as “the best catcher I ever worked with”, purposefully threw pitches that were not signaled just to cross up the catcher. Walker’s year was plagued with injuries, limiting him to just 42 games in a 104-game season.

William Edward White was said to had been the first African-American player in the MLB. But, he didn’t want to be recognized as black and often passed as white.

Moreover, Fleetwood was proud of his black heritage, and even faced the racial bigotry that plagued the late 19th century. Walker played just one season for the Toledo ball club, 42 games total, before injuries entailed his release.

Walker played in the minor leagues until 1889. And, he was the last African-American to participate on the major league level before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947.

A trip to Kansas City, MO, and you will find Walker and many other great black players’ profile on display at the Negro Baseball League Museum.

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